A few Saturdays ago I woke up early to take Megabus* from Milwaukee to Chicago to visit my family. I had taken Megabus before and knew to plan for delays. (A one-way ticket for $5 is worth a few traffic delays and late buses.) What I wasn’t prepared for was a complete lack of customer service.

On this particular route the bus makes two stops, one in downtown Milwaukee (where I board) and another by the Milwaukee airport. When the bus reached the airport it was clear we were going to have problems.

After speaking with Megabus, the bus driver said that Megabus had screwed up and overbooked. People with ticket numbers 1- 12 were to get off the bus. Reaction? Nobody moved. The bus driver made a half-hearted attempt to check everyone’s ticket and looked around dumbfounded.

Then he began asking for volunteers saying, “I’m sorry. Megabus really screwed up. I need four volunteers to wait for the next bus. It’s not going to be here for a long time. I wouldn’t do it.” That’s right. He actually said, “I wouldn’t do it.” At this point I started cracking jokes about the absurdity of the situation.

Another 10-15 minutes passed, and two Megabus employees gave up their seats and stood the entire trip. Meanwhile, some people were SOL. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth, and delayed our trip by half an hour.

It’s incredible that a company of this size does not have better policies in place. Instead of trying to kick people off the bus, Megabus should have instructed the driver to apologize and immediately ask for volunteers.

To give people an incentive, those who gave up their seats should have received a free roundtrip ticket in addition to being reimbursed for that day’s trip. It would have also been nice to let the volunteers know when the next bus would arrive. If the next bus was at capacity, Megabus could have offered to pay for a ticket on the nearby Amtrak.

At the end of the day, I’m still going to use Megabus for short trips when I don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time. Normally they offer a great service for an extremely low price, but if they don’t fix their customer service issues soon they are going to start losing customers. Fast.

*Megabus is a non-stop intercity express bus company that offers fares to travelers as low as $1 via the Internet.


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